Updated: Mar 6, 2020
Guest blog by Andrew Telling - Director at Orange Planet Productions
Andrew Telling filming some of the residents of Animal Friends Manado Indonesia’s sanctuary.
Saturday 2nd March 2019, 10:30am. I'm with Peter Egan and Change for Animals Foundation Director Lola Webber in the middle of an open market with little space to move. It's 35 degrees and around us are the blow-torched and bludgeoned carcasses of every animal imaginable - bats, rats, pigs, sheep, monkeys and pythons. The largest heaps, however, are dogs and cats. Bloodied traders with seemingly endless supplies of cigarettes hack limbs off to order with rusty machetes. Trade, we’re told, is excellent.
We haven’t yet witnessed piles of caged living dogs and cats awaiting butchery. We know they exist somewhere, but this part of the Tomohon Market in North Sulawesi appears only to be serving 'pre-slaughtered' animals. This is in stark contrast to a week earlier where terrified, captive souls filled the streets. It's almost as though the traders knew we were coming…
Peter speaks to a representative of the Governor of North Sulawesi in an unusual display of media-friendly solidarity. 'We'll be dog and cat meat free within the year,' the representative says. 'And we no longer slaughter any live animals in this market. It's bad for tourism'. It’s a bold and optimistic statement but no sooner have the words left his mouth, Lola receives a text from a colleague. ‘Come quickly,’ it reads. ‘We’ve found live dogs.’
We're back in the heart of the suffocating market looking at a trader selling lettuces opposite the array of meat vendors. A simple make-shift table top is covered with a filthy tarpaulin. Peter lifts the corner to reveal a rusty cage holding five of the most painfully distressed dogs we have ever seen. No food, no water and held in this sweltering prison for 30 hours at least, these dogs are literally hours from death. In a stage-managed and orchestrated act of deceit, they’ve been hidden from us in preparation for ‘live’ butchering to satisfy a demand for 'fresh' dog meat. The traders watch us, wielding their machetes waiting for us to leave. The Governor’s representative, who minutes earlier assured us that no live slaughter takes place in this market, is nowhere to be seen. His sudden and unannounced departure speaks volumes.
A waiting game begins; the police are called, as are the market authorities, but nobody comes. Nobody cares. Lola does everything she can to legally adopt the dogs in to her care. The urge to just take them is overwhelming, but to do that would unleash far reaching repercussions and indirectly harm many more animals and their chance of a cruelty free future. Euthanising the caged dogs in a stress free, humane and dignified way would be better than the barbaric fate that awaits at the hands of the blow-torch wielding butchers. And make no mistake, the slaughter methods are designed to create maximum suffering to, same say, ‘enhance’ the flavour. Quite honestly, most traders just enjoy torturing animals.
We wait for almost an hour while Lola exercises every legal avenue to help these animals but before a resolution can be reached, they are wheeled away to a building we can't access. I follow with my camera, split from our team, and find myself reaching the end of a road and within spitting distance of a meat trader who makes a bold show of his presence. I'm a six-foot four-inch Western man holding a film camera. I’m painfully conspicuous and unwelcome.
Lola’s faith has been broken yet again by traders who flagrantly ignore laws they know will never be enforced by a Governor offering positive assurances that are never upheld. Peter and I are devastated having experienced it just once. Lola battles this feeling daily.
This is just one market in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, which contributes to the slaughter of over 1 million cats and dogs a year. Stolen pets and diseased, often rabid, illegal ‘imports’ fill the cages until it’s their time to die in front of indifferent customers, often with children and even their family dog. They claim it’s ‘cultural’ – but there’s no reference to dog meat being eaten in the history books. Besides, what kind of culture bludgeons and blowtorches animals to death? Indonesia is a beautiful place and this vile and vicious trade is incongruous with everything we believe about the country. And while tourism stays strong and their image on the World stage remains one of stunning natural bio-diversity, there is simply no imperative for the Indonesian Government to make a stand.
But, this ‘secret’ is out. Thanks to Lola Webber and the Dog Meat Free Indonesia coalition, the World is beginning to see the extent of animal cruelty that exists in Indonesia. It’s a cruelty so heinous that I can find no word other than evil. As previously mentioned, culture has no relevance. Nor does the ‘…but we eat pigs and cows in the West’ argument. Nor is it about ‘being open minded’ or ‘unafraid to try something new’. This is about extreme and egregious cruelty, plain and simple. It will ONLY stop when the Government dictates it. And the Government will ONLY dictate it when the World unites with one simple message; your beautiful country is a lie as long as you allow this trade to continue.
Peter Egan and Frank from Animal Friends Manado at the sanctuary with two dogs just rescued from the market - read more about the rescue here >>
If you feel inert and dwarfed by the scale of the problem, please don’t be. Because this is a country that WILL respond to a petition. I know there are so many causes requiring so many signatures these days, but I promise this one has weight. The spectre of Global censure weighs heavy on the conscience of a Government that builds a strong economy on tourism. Just one click and you’re there: dogmeatfreeindonesia.org. Your voice WILL be heard, and you WILL make a difference. And God knows we have to.
Ricky Gervais recently said, ‘be the person your dog wants you to be.’ He means a kind, loving and loyal friend. Not a torturous butcher devoid of conscience causing industrial suffering on an unimaginable scale.
Ricky Gervais has been an ambassador for our Dog Meat Free Indonesia campaign since we launched in 2017.
Please TAKE ACTION TODAY!
Pledges of action have been made by those in power but we need to make sure these result in real and impactful change for those in such desperate need… and change can’t come soon enough!
- Sign & share the petition calling for the closure of dog and cat meat markets
- Write to the Indonesian Embassy in your home country to voice your opposition to the trades – you can find contact details here
- Make a donation today so we can continue to expand our campaign – your generosity saves lives